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Comfort Food: Pot roast a la Julia Child

The addition of bones "beefs" up this pot roast as it braises. (Nancy Baggett)

This is the first of an occasional series from local cookbook author and FOF (Friend of the Food section) Nancy Baggett, who loves to cook year-round -- but especially in the winter months.

Recipe Included

Long ago, I worked my way through the first volume of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking” like blogger Julie Powell did in “Julie and Julia.” But, unlike her, I spent several years doing it, in the pre-blogosphere/e-mail era and before I went to pastry school.

Seeing the “Julia” film this fall made me crave that slow-simmered boeuf bourguignon, even in the midst of my fresh-light-easy cooking mode. When I pulled out my old volume, Child’s recipe no longer looked daunting. But I figured I’d do some things my own way: a beef pot roast instead of a stew; roasted vegetables instead of braised; more thyme; no bacon, and no mushrooms sauteed in butter.

The result was the following French-inspired pot roast, which my husband proclaims the best he’s ever eaten. I’m not going to disagree.

-- Nancy Baggett, whose recipes and blog can be found at

Hearty Beef Pot Roast With Red Wine and Thyme
5 to 6 servings

This is cold-weather comfort food at its best. During several hours of gentle oven braising in red wine and herbs, the chuck roast becomes tender, succulent and infused with flavor.

Unlike typical American beef pot roast recipes, this one calls not only for wine but for adding some beef bones to the pot to “beef” up the broth. The beef bones are oven-roasted first, a classic French stock-making technique that further enriches the flavor of the final dish. Yes, it’s an extra step (and not one Julia Child’s recipe called for), but as you’ll see, it’s fairly effortless, and I think nicely doctors convenient store-bought beef broth.

Serve with a green salad and bread. French bread, is fine, of course, but if you’re in the mood for homemade bread, check out the sample “kneadless” recipes from my Kneadlessly Simple cookbook here.

MAKE AHEAD: The pot roast is also excellent reheated. Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

2 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 tablespoon flour
About 5 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil
2 cups full-bodied dry red wine
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
2 to 3 pounds beef bones, preferably marrow bones
About 3 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth, or more as needed
9 to 10 cups of 1 1/4-inch chunks or lengths of mixed vegetables, such as red bliss potatoes (unpeeled), carrots, onions, rutabagas, parsnips and celery
Water, as needed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have a 4-to-6-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot at hand.

Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then lightly pat with flour on both sides.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in the Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is quite hot, add the beef and brown it on all sides, adding a little more oil as needed to keep the meat from burning.

Add the wine, 3 cups of the beef broth, the thyme and bay leaf, stirring to combine.

Bring to a boil, then cover tightly and transfer to the oven (middle rack). Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beef is easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a medium-large roasting pan, combine the beef bones with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil; toss to coat evenly. Roast the bones for 1 hour (middle rack), or until very well browned.

Transfer the beef bones to the Dutch oven or pot; discard the fat and wipe out the roasting pan, then add the remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth to the pan. Use a wooden spoon dislodge the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, then add the mixture to the Dutch oven or pot; re-cover and continue to braise.

Meanwhile, combine the vegetables, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, and salt and pepper to taste in the same roasting pan. Roast for 50 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are just tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Transfer to the stovetop (off the heat).

When the pot roast is tender, arrange it and the vegetables in a large, deep, oven-proof serving dish or platter. Discard the bay leaf. Cover and return to the oven to keep warm. If the broth has not reduced to 3 cups or less, return the Dutch oven to the burner over medium-high heat. Cook briskly, uncovered, until the broth reduces to about 3 cups. (If the broth already measures less than 2 cups, add about 1/2 cup beef broth or water to it.) Discard the bones.

Transfer the broth to a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or fat separator cup; let stand until the fat rises to the surface. Skim or pour off the fat. Pour the defatted broth over the pot roast and vegetables (reheat the broth, if necessary) and serve.

By The Food Section  |  January 6, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Comfort Food , Recipes  | Tags: Comfort Food, Julia Child, Nancy Baggett, pot roast, recipes  
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Not only a delicious recipe but nutritious as well!

Tracy, Status Now

Posted by: Statusnow9 | January 6, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

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